Creating a Custom Solution
It can be a challenge to find the right point-of-sale (POS) service/system to meet the specific needs of your garden center.
Ron Vanderhoff, general manager and vice president of Corona del Mar, California-based Roger’s Gardens, a diversified retailer of plant and garden products, discusses using a customized point-of-sale (POS) system developed by Rapid Garden POS.
How did you come across Rapid Garden POS? What made you decide to use their system?
We have been a customer of Rapid for over 12 years now. We began our relationship with Rapid Garden POS in 2007.
Initially, when we switched to the Counterpoint system, we used a different service partner. After a couple of years, we realized we were not satisfied with the relationship and switched to Rapid. They were a much smaller company then and it has been nice to see them grow and also to grow with them.
Looking back now with the wisdom we have acquired over these years we’ve learned a lot. Other than the decision of which POS and inventory system to use, the second most important decision for a retailer is which support partner to use. This second decision is critical to a company’s perception of the Counterpoint product. A good service provider is a key decision.
What do you like about Rapid Garden POS?
It’s suitability to our business, or I should say businesses, since Roger’s Gardens is a diversified retailer of plant and garden products, furniture, fresh floral, home decorative, collectibles, gourmet food, ecommerce and more. We even do our own rather extensive “manufacturing” of fresh and live products.
What makes this POS system different from others on the market?
Right out of the box, so to speak, it works for the lawn and garden industry. It is also feature rich, with the ability to help retailers with a wide array of integrated functions. Lawn and garden retailing is unique in many ways from apparel, department store, and other hard goods retailing, which is what many platforms seem to be geared toward.
Nonetheless, out-of-the-box works for a while, but the nature of our industry is that no two of us are the same or want to use any system in the same way. We are an industry of “independents,” as most people reading this will likely attest to. After using Counterpoint or any system for a while, users will want to make customizations, add enhancements, change reports and create new features. Counterpoint was developed with an open architecture and is highly customizable, so partner companies like Rapid can mold it to the individual needs of each business.
These customizations and enhancements are perhaps the biggest value of a strong retail partner; one who understands the lawn and garden industry and its intricacies. Rapid Garden POS has multiple garden center accounts around the country. They really understand our business and our industry
niche. They don’t try to have us adapt to the practices of another industry; instead they further adapt the software to the specific needs of our industry and our business.
What specific features do you use?
As I mentioned, this is where we get some of the biggest value from Rapid Garden POS. They have written several new features and enhancements for us. A few of the features they have created from the ground up are Production Kits, Open-to-Buy purchasing management and customer delivery scheduling.
They have also enhanced many other areas, including customer data capture at POS, special order management, loyalty programs, customer item pick-up efficiencies and so on. All of these are somewhat industry-specific, but really helps Roger’s Gardens to operate and serve our customers more smoothly and productively. Recently, they helped us move to a new ecommerce platform and they were there every step of the way, creating all the data connections and customizations that were necessary.
For example, one of the challenges that retail garden centers deal with daily is home delivery. Usually this is managed through some disconnected spreadsheet or, more likely, through a lot of paper and clipboards on a wall. Rapid Garden POS brought all of this in-system. An operator can now check delivery availability and schedule the ticket for delivery on a specific day. The software ensures that the day cannot get overbooked, since the availability of deliveries is maintained in Counterpoint and is decremented in real time as they are used. When the driver is preparing his or her day, they can print a customized form for each drop that we call a Pick Ticket with all the details for that stop, including checkout of the items before they leave the store and verification that the items were received at the customer’s home.
A custom Open-to-Buy feature allows buyers and managers to set inventory threshold at various category levels. These levels are set based upon sales projections, stock-to-sales ratios, turn rates, etc. This level of inventory management and planning helps an industry like ours, which is especially dynamic and seasonal, to have the correct levels of inventory; not too much and not too little.
A third area that garden centers can easily stumble is in managing special orders. Paper systems are ripe with errors, customer disappointments and ultimately lost business or expensive service problems. Much of the ability to manage special orders is already built in to Counterpoint, but Rapid Garden POS has taken it a few steps further.
Once the order is taken, our system connects the order to a line or lines on a Purchase Order, perhaps several Purchase Orders. When these orders are received, the items are flagged, and the salesperson is notified that the products are here. At any time, the salesperson can check on the status of the order and see when it is arriving or even if it is not available. We use this several times every day. We see special orders as a growing part of our business and an area that has not really been tapped by our industry but should be.
With the help of Rapid Garden POS, our next enhancements will be to connect this order status information directly right to the customer, either with automatic emails when items are received or with an online portal where a customer can check the status of their special order any time — or both.
Describe what your relationship with Rapid Garden POS is like.
After several years, we feel that we have a real partnership with Rapid Garden POS. We know them and they know us. Like any good business partnership, we understand each other’s businesses, their strengths and weaknesses, and how to get the most value from the relationship.
One bit of coaching that I can offer to other retailers is to be thoughtful in your communications and requests, no matter who your service partner or IT consultant might be. It is easy to toss a question or a problem to a systems person without really thinking it through or presenting it in a manner that is understandable. Usually this leads to a frustrated retailer that blames the consultant or partner, along with a great deal of wasted time and extra expense.
We work with Rapid Garden POS thoughtfully and try hard to present issues in a well-crafted manner, with specific examples, screenshots if necessary, and reasonable timelines. Not everything is an emergency, and although it would be nice to have a solution immediately, it isn’t always necessary. We don’t cry wolf when we don’t need to. If issues are poorly presented, without specifics and always in an ‘urgent’ manner the results are going to be as one would expect. The merchant also has responsibility in their relationship with a POS and inventory management provider.
How has it impacted your customers?
We don’t expect customers to say much about the services that a POS service provider might provide. I think the absence of customer comments is the true test. Quicker checkout, deliveries that are as expected, special orders that get followed through, loyalty rewards that are correct, inventory that is in-stock when the customer wants it, quick and accurate checkout and so forth are now standard expectations in retail environments. The garden center industry is not isolated from these customer expectations. We don’t expect or deserve compliments for these things, they are expected by customers, wherever they shop.
How does the POS system make your business more profitable?
Rapid Garden POS is a tool for a business. Like any tool, it is most valuable to those that use it wisely and thoughtfully. It is a tool that fits our business. A great tool, when used properly and to its full potential, will have huge value, but even the best tool will not turn a sloppy business into a well-run business. We are heavy users of Counterpoint and strong partners with Rapid Garden POS. We think we are better merchants and a better business with the tools that fit our needs. I can’t imagine doing business without either of them.